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PHRAGMENTS FROM PHYLLIS: Let the flyer beware

Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

We had a wonderful cruise in Greece and Turkey. From the moment we left Augusta everything went like clockwork – until it didn’t.

I suppose we should have read the signals. As we were leaving the ship to return home, one of the travelers was pulled off our bus by Turkish police. Another woman couldn’t find one of her pieces of luggage, and they let her hold up the bus to the airport for about 30 minutes – never did find it, so we had waited for naught.

We left Istanbul on time – no problem. Well, there was no problem except for the logistics. The airport was the biggest I’ve ever been in. We had to take two trams, two or three fast-track sidewalks and walk very fast. In addition, the security in Istanbul is incredible. I was patted down three times – twice very thoroughly. Our carry-ons were searched at least three times – all just to get on the plane.

Then the real trouble began. We had a stop at the Heathrow Airport in London. There they had a mechanical problem, and it took two hours to replace the plane with another. (As it was, the cruise line had scheduled our flight with only an hour and five minutes time to race through a big airport, and, had everything else gone according to plan, we would have gotten to the plane five minutes before it was to fly out.)

Our flight from London, when we finally got on it, was going through Dallas/Fort Worth – don’t ask me why. But again, Viking had allowed an hour and a half to get on the next plane to Augusta. Obviously, since the flight from Heathrow took off two hours late, we missed that connection.

The good news is that because it was British Air’s problem, they put us up in a nice hotel and gave us generous vouchers for dinner and breakfast the next day. Realize by this point we had been up 26 hours straight with only fitful sleep on the plane. (For those who know me, that wouldn’t be a big deal; however, my husband doesn’t fare so well without sleep.)

The next good news was that the desk clerk at the hotel took pity on us – I’m guessing we looked a bit bedraggled – and he gave us a very nice room close to the front desk and to the restaurant.

So far, so good in a bad situation.

The next morning we got to the airport before 10 a.m. for a 12:38 p.m. departure - plenty of time. We checked our luggage and waited at the gate. Only somewhere along the way they changed the gate but didn’t announce it.

By the time we realized it – about 30 minutes (and this is important, to me, anyway) before the plane was to take off – they had closed the doors and would not reopen them. Realize that FAA regulations require airlines to keep the gate open until 15 minutes before take-off, but nobody would listen. Once the doors are closed, they remain closed.

So we raced to reschedule. There is one other flight directly to Augusta each day, at 4:55 p.m. Only problem is when you have to reschedule, they put you on standby-by, even if there are empty seats on the plane. So we waited. And then that plane was delayed.

Meanwhile, we got daughter Cat to go pick up our checked luggage, which did make the earlier flight – and, with a minor glitch, that part worked out.

We indeed got on the next flight – a plane that, fortunately was sparsely occupied. However, (I feel like I’ve said “however” or “but” way to often in this column) not only did we board late (again, not sure why), we waited on board for them to refuel. (The plane was originally going to Shreveport, Louisiana, which is closer than Augusta, so they needed additional fuel to get here.)

The one bright spot was that the trip, which is supposed to take more than two hours, only took about an hour and 20 minutes. And my friend Susan was already waiting for us – and trying to explain to the security guard why she was just sitting there. She said, “It’s a good thing you got here; I was about to be arrested!” (Not really. The guard laughed.)

But she was right. It’s a good thing we got here at all - a little the worse for wear, but I’m hoping our wonderful trip will overshadow our travel home, in time.

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